They run a tight ship in Dublin, so much so that not even Kevin McManamon’s big brother, former county man Brendan, was allowed to know that his sibling was starting last weekend.
Brendan, 34, a Leinster medallist with Dublin in 2008, texted Kevin on Saturday morning to enquire if his omission from the official team to face Kerry was correct or simply a dummy team strategy.
It proved to be the latter, with McManamon starting in attack, one of two changes to the team, and he was many people’s man-of-the-match choice following a strong display in the two-point win.
However, 24 hours or so before the All-Ireland semi-final tie, he was bound by Dublin’s strict veil of secrecy and so he told his brother he was definitely a substitute.
“I actually contacted him to ask and he wouldn’t tell me,” revealed Brendan, a forward colleague at the St Jude’s club. “My own father didn’t know.
“I texted Kevin, going ‘I presume that team isn’t the team?’ And he said, ‘no, no, that’s the team’. I thought deep down in my own mind that he had done enough to warrant a start, so I was sort of 50-50 about believing it, but yeah, he wouldn’t tell me and I know he won’t tell me before the final.”
Brendan was on the Dublin panel in 2008 and 2009, but broke his leg on three separate occasions and felt it cost him an All-Ireland medal in 2011 when Kevin nailed a famous goal against Kerry in the final. Kevin was involved in the game’s most controversial moment on Sunday when he put in a huge hit on Peter Crowley, turning over possession and Diarmuid Connolly eventually scored the point that put Dublin two ahead.
“It looked perfect at the time, but looking back on it, it probably was a free,” said Brendan, who didn’t feel the incident cost Kerry the game.
“I don’t think it was necessarily a turning point. The ball still had to go over the bar and there was another few minutes left. I think Dublin, in hindsight, were still the better team on the day and I think they would have won, regardless.”
McManamon has now broken Kerry hearts on three occasions, netting crucial goals in that 2011 final and the 2013 semi-final and playing such a key role last weekend. “I’d say Kerry people can’t stand the sight of him now,” said Brendan. “I was only reading a stat earlier on about the amount of scores Dublin have got between the 55th and 70th minutes against Kerry in the last four or five games. It was something unbelievable, like 5-18 to eight points or something like that and I think Kevin has scored a serious amount of that. So, I’m sure they’re absolutely sick of him.”
McManamon’s strong form against both Kerry and Donegal in the All-Ireland series has led bookmakers to bring him into joint fourth favourite for the Player of the Year award alongside Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea. Dublin colleagues Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny, and Diarmuid Connolly are all ahead of the pair, though a big performance on All-Ireland final day could change all of that.
“He’s been nominated once or twice for an All Star, basically as a substitute those years, which I don’t think many people have done,” noted Brendan. “I think he’s nailed on to get one this year and I wouldn’t say he’s far off getting footballer-of-the-year if he has a good final as well.”
Given his heroics from the bench over the years, Kevin may still ultimately be remembered as an iconic substitute when he hangs up his boots.
“If I was picking the team, I’d have him in there all day and I probably would have had him in there starting in the last year or two as well, but maybe I’m a bit biased,” said Brendan.
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